The Gulf Islands of Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao funnel in swarms of sunseekers, bungalow-dwellers, hammock enthusiasts, swimmers, snorkellers, divers, trekkers and would-be castaways to their satin shores. Peak season is a bit of a carnival, but come the slower season prices drop and elbow room grows. But whatever time you go, do a bit of travelling away from the main hubs and space will open before you, as secluded beaches drift into view alongside a sparkling sea.
The largest and most famous island, Ko Samui is the busiest, brashest and most developed of the three, but attracts the best restaurants, bars and hotels. Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao are no slouches, but both increasingly woo visitors with the promise of quieter, more secluded beaches and the wilder side of the Ko Samui of yore, while offering more for those who like to get their exploring shoes on.